Precondition:

The human voice has evolved over millions of years to be a versatile, extensible tool for general-purpose communication. Its facility covers everything from Mr. Thum’s brilliant vocalizations above, to the infinite variety of human linguistic expression. The pattern matching wetware we carry around in our skulls combined with this extremely flexible vocalization apparatus has given us everything from Shakespeare and Richard Hugo to Ellie Goulding and beatboxing.

My mother once espoused (and, I imagine, might still) the theory that what makes us quintessentially human is not just language, but storytelling. I don’t know that she’s right, but suspect she’s not wrong.

Anyone who has heard a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo understands that “storytelling” shouldn’t be narrowly considered. Tom Thum’s presentation tells a story, in its way. It moves from percussive braggadocio to a smoky, jazz-club vignette in the space of eleven minutes, and of the sounds Thum employs, “proper words” are the decided minority.

Whether or not it is the quintessence of humanity, this facility for narrative expression is inextricable from what makes us human, no matter what audible form it takes.